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Russian Winter    by Daphne Kalotay order for
Russian Winter
by Daphne Kalotay
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Is it at all possible to convey to people of another culture what citizens in Russia in the Stalin era lived through, the feelings of repression, distrust and suspicion? Such is the task author Daphne Kalotay has undertaken, and the result is quite moving.

Nina, a Russian ballerina who defected to the West under mysterious circumstances many years ago, has decided to sell the jewels she has amassed over the years. Drew, a young director at the auction house, is more than intrigued by her research into the jewels, particularly since a Russian professor comes forward with a match to one of the sets to be sold. It will be up to them to ferret out what really happened from the aging and ill ballerina, who herself finally has to come to terms with long-ago events.

Ever so gradually Kalotay manages to make the ineffable at least somewhat real for us. It is through Nina that we peer into the past, and that is an advantage and disadvantage. Nina's love of dance, of how in a performance she can be so thoroughly transformed that her personal life's ups and downs have no hold on her ability to be the role that she is dancing - this bestows great beauty to the story. Yet her aloofness to all but what immediately concerns her, her utter naiveté, leaves us somewhat adrift emotionally until the end, when the pieces of the puzzle finally start coming together.

In fact too, the end seems a bit rushed. However, since Kalotay has been so thorough in her research, we learn much about many things - ballet and theatre in Russia, how jewels are categorized and life among the intellectuals in Moscow. You will find much to savor in this story.

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